Primary sector untouched by academy conversion

Fiona Millar's picture
Here is a more detailed blog by my friend and fellow Comprehensive Future supporter John Fowler about the slowing down of academy conversions. John has been following the pattern of conversions since the autumn of 2010 and also looking at the time taken to convert. His latest findings build in earlier research published here and also points out that primary schools are proving very resistant to leaving their local authority families. This suggests that the Gove revolution may only be partial - maybe that is why he is pursuing all those forced conversions - and that there must continue to be a role for many local authorities, even if it is mostly focused on the primary sector.
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Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 19/12/2011 - 17:10

In Lincolnshire the County Council wants all schools to convert to academies, including primaries. The Council realises that small academies would not have the expertise to run their own affairs because of their size and would be unlikely to have a big enough budget as academies to buy in this expertise. Lincolnshire's answer is for the small schools to join the CfBT Education Trust which is based miles away in Reading and which cannot be unseated, unlike County Councillors. CfBT don't particularly relish having these small schools, but has said it will take them on if it can have some of the larger ones. So much for local decision making.

I suspect that in other parts of the country, primary heads are reluctant to become academies because they do not want to take on the administrative and legal burdens which would become their responsibilities. They, quite rightly, want to concentrate on educating their pupils, not becoming mini-businesses.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 20/12/2011 - 12:53

Yes, it makes no sense for primary schools to become academies; they are, by and large, small operations that need to support of a local authority to keep going. They simply don't have the economies of scale to attend to things like maintaining buildings, doing payroll, providing training etc. I think this is something that even people like Wilshaw and other 'conservative' educationalists are concerned about; they know that primaries couldn't survive on their own. I think Gove is out on a limb with this one.

Nicola Brown's picture
Tue, 20/12/2011 - 20:45

I have been waiting for the issue of forced conversions of academies to come up here. Michael Gove's comments on the latest set of primary league tables clearly indicates that he is looking at forcing the conversion of several hundred primaries. The issue is discussed in an article by Warwick Mansell in the Guardian (20.12.2011).

To be honest, I regard the forced conversion of community primary schools into academies as a much greater threat to local schools than I do free schools, which are endlessly discussed here.

I think this issue needs much greater airing.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 21/12/2011 - 09:34

Nicola - you make an important point about the important issue of academy conversion being forced on primary schools deemed to be "failing". These schools may be described as failing because their results are below the floor standards despite the Education Endowment Fund finding that many below-the-floor schools are doing a good job in difficult circumstances. Or they may be described as failing because Ofsted has put them in special measures.

Mr Gove's answer is to force the schools to become academies whether local people want this or not. Presumably this conversion would be accompanied by the sacking of the senior management team. However, this may not be fair or just. Mr Gove makes the assumption that if a school is "failing" then it is the fault of the teachers - he refuses to countenance any other reason such as inability to speak English, rapid turnover of pupils and so on. Instead, a "no excuses" culture is taking hold and the future of schools and their staff rests on the results of high-stake tests. The OECD has warned that there is too much emphasis on raw results in England, and in the US high-stake tests have resulted in cheating.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 22/12/2011 - 10:23

I suspect this issue of forced academies will become more of a talking point in the next year or so, especially in situations where the school community and the parents are adamantly against changes that the government is requiring. There are many ways to improve schools that are underperforming (according to Ofsted and test results) but they don't need to become independent to either access outside help and support or to introduce new governance structures. However in an era where parent choice is supposed to be paramount, curiously there is only one choice on the menu in this situation. I will be speaking at a meeting about this at Downhills Primary School in Haringay- the school featured in Warwick Mansell's Guardian article this week - on Jan 9th.

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 09:38

Janet, I found the information you provided on another post about one third of 'below floor target' schools being within 5% of the floor target very interesting. You're absolutely right that this doesn't justify or warrant such brutal and undemocratic intervention.

I'm also wondering where - given the national shortage of Heads - where all these 'super heads' and new SMTs are going to come from? Although, it's noticeable that Gove has been quiet on this now that he has the ball rolling with forced academies.

Nicola Brown's picture
Tue, 20/12/2011 - 20:46

Sorry, first sentence should read 'forced conversions of primary schools to academies'.

Samuel Morris's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 12:22

I think if people dug deeper here you will find that the ability to self convert if you have a Good Ofsted rating is also a misnomer for schools who may be over the 40% floor target for secondaries now but when they call up the DfE to convert they find the 2015 50% floor target is actually being enforced by the DfE!! So they have to find a sponsor......themselves or possibly face the consequence of being converted later and having little say in who takes them over

Democracy is action!!!!.

Marigold Doyle's picture
Fri, 30/12/2011 - 23:07

I thought that 'good' or 'outstanding' schools that converted did so without a sponsor.

So can a 'good' school that wants to convert but is not permitted as it's not above the floor target convert if it finds a sponsor?

Just out of interest, I do wonder why Gove has allied a 'retrospective analysis' to primaries but let secondaries know when the goal posts will be moving. It does look like a lot will be in the '5% below floor target' category that many primaries that are under threat of being forced are. Or indeed, there are 3 primaries In Haringey that are above floor target this year, but are still being forced to become academies - it would seem that the DfE's hysteria about floor targets is something they turn on and off as the situation suits them.

Samuel Morris's picture
Sun, 01/01/2012 - 13:55

Yes a 'good' school below floor can convert if it finds a sponsor which us what Gove wants.

The point I was making is that Mr Gove;s dept are enforcing a future floor target now to those schools who wish to become a self converter academy. thus stopping them. However if they go with a sponsor Gove will allow them to become an academy!!

Which is not how it is presented on the DfE website!!

Janet Lallysmith's picture
Fri, 06/01/2012 - 15:24

Ah, so if you agree to your school being handed over to some private company, it's all steam ahead.

What's your school planning to do?

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